The first polar bear cub born in the UK in a quarter of a century took its first tentative steps into the outside world at the weekend.
The two-month-old cub was born just before Christmas at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie, but until now its birth was shrouded in mystery.
Its existence was only confirmed by high-pitched noises heard from the maternity den and even now the cub’s sex remains unknown.
Keepers at the park have been keeping their distance so as not to disturb mother Victoria and her cub, but on Sunday everything changed.
The cub emerged for the first time giving keepers a special thrill and was snapped by motion sensitive cameras set up by a documentary crew.
Una Richardson, head keeper responsible for carnivores, was there when the cub came out into the open for the first time.
She said: “I was visiting Victoria on Sunday morning to check she had fresh water and to continue slowly reintroducing food to her diet.
“Suddenly I saw a small, fluffy bundle next to her and had to pinch myself to check I wasn’t seeing things. It was a very special experience and one I’ll never forget.
“We can now be certain Victoria has had one cub rather than two and we couldn’t be happier as this is the moment we have been working towards and really looking forward to.”
She added: “In the coming weeks we’ll also be able to find out if we have a little boy or girl and then we’ll decide on a name.”
The cub was born blind and weighing little more than a guinea pig but now is about the same size as a Scottish terrier and can see.
And as with any birth the most important thing is that “both mum and cub appear to be doing well”.
Conservation charity Polar Bears International welcomed the news, executive director Krista Wright said: “We would like to congratulate Highland Wildlife Park.
She added: “It is important for facilities like Highland Wildlife Park to help educate visitors and involve them in solutions. This cub will serve as an ambassador for its wild cousins, inspiring people to care.”